“You know, we are doing this about the hardest way imaginable.”
That was not a question - but an observation. Emily was right and I needed to hear it. I was concerned that nothing was moving as fast as I thought it should, and I was down on myself in particular, for not driving harder, doing more, moving faster.
As you might guess, planting a church (or really starting anything new) is crazy difficult. While we have chosen to embrace this difficulty for many important reasons, it's easy to forget the challenges involved. And you know what? The more I have thought about it, the more I think that maybe it was never supposed to be easy.
There is nothing easy about what we are trying to do:
- It’s not easy to learn to hear God’s voice in a noisy world.
- It’s not easy to grow up + become mature.
- It’s not easy to face our personal ‘demons’ + learn to love sacrificially + forgive.
- It’s not easy to create new things, new rhythms, new relationships.
- It's not easy to build momentum - particularly when people are already so busy.
- It’s not easy to fix things that are broken, be they systems, politics, cities, poverty.
- In fact, there is nothing easy about helping to make the world a better place.
And yet, we do not face these difficult tasks alone. We have each other, and the One who IS life + light Himself is working the mighty miracles required to bring about resurrection and new life.
The Prophet Ezekiel faced impossible challenges in his day. In Ezekiel 37, God gives the Prophet a vision of a river flowing from the temple and bringing new life all along its banks. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to this region of the earth, you know that life in the desert is only green and lush along the rivers, so you can imagine the power of this vision for Ezekiel.
My slight paraphrase of Ezekiel 47 reads:
… water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the [dead sea]; and the water was flowing down and getting deeper. First to the ankle, then knee deep, then waist, and until it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. Then, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on both sides. He said to me, “when this water enters the Dead Sea, it will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. On the banks on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
All these years later, Ezekiel’s vision still captivates. Imagine if we could see the stream of God’s love flowing out from the new temple. Not a temple of stone and mortar, but the community of God’s people, bringing new life + connection + healing + love to the world around us. As the Apostle Paul points out, “We are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us.” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
And so. as we step out in faith together, I feel brave. We will always wish to be more or further along than we are, but much of that vision is ‘downstream’ from where we are right now. Right now all we can see is a little drip of fresh water from mountain snow melt. By the time this drip runs to the ocean - it will have carved an incredible path through dirt and rock and stone, and been part of bringing life to places that are currently unimaginable. It’s really exciting to think of the possibilities and life contained in each little drip that we witness together.
While doing new things can be hard, it is also good. We see God’s provision in the remarkable launch team that has formed to listen together for God’s voice. This community that has formed around these hopes and dreams is an amazing group of people. Each time we're together I listen to others who are hearing God’s voice, speak of similar longings to find and experience God and community in new ways. And I watch our kids giddy to run and play with the other kids of our group (it's crazy when all of them are present) and I am excited about this new community that is ‘Church’ for my kids.